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Photo by: Sam Vandervalk
Photo by: Sam Vandervalk
Photo by: Sam Vandervalk

Ucluelet

Located in the natural heart of Pacific Rim National Park, this operational west coast harbour community is nestled amidst some of the most gorgeous landscapes in the Pacific Northwest. Yes, it is out of the way (nearly 2 hours west of Parksville), but well worth forging the trail, but a wise man once said Narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few will find it. The good life is found in this west coast village fondly known by locals as “Ukee”.

Fast Facts


population icon 33

Population: Approx. 2000 (greatly increased during summer months)


Location: Ucluelet can be reached via Pacific Rim Highway 4 that starts in Parksville and winds through the heart of the Vancouver Island Mountains to Port Alberni and the open ocean at Ucluelet and Tofino. The drive, if nothing else, is well worth it. Snowcapped mountain peaks, lush forests, dazzling waterfalls, rocky pinnacles, and mist covered lakes might cause the car to stop and pictures to be taken.

Fishing

During the 1960-1980’s you could expect to see commercial salmon trollers dotted along the coast of Ucluelet on its many feed-rich banks, attracting large amounts of herring, needlefish, krill, squid, and pilchards. It is said that Ucluelet still brings in more salmon than any other port on the coast of Vancouver Island. Now more attention is on sport fishing and Ucluelet is one the hotspots on the coast for bringing in strong catches of salmon and halibut. For more on fishing Ucluelet (put link to fishing page)

Local Attractions

ferry iconPassenger Ferry

The MV Frances Barkley provides an unusual and fantastic option as you can sail from Port Alberni down the Alberni Inlet to Ucluelet. The route leads through the Broken Group Island in Barkley Sound to the fishing ports of Bamfield and Ucluelet.

hiking iconHiking

The Wild Pacific Trail and Amphitrite Point along with the lighthouse is a popular tourist spot and gives spectacular views of both the Barkley Sound and the Pacific Ocean. The Point provides excellent opportunities for whale watching as well as the intense winter storms that eventually direct their forces on the whole area. The Wild Pacific Trail leads along the coastline from Amphitrite Point towards Ucluelet.

fish iconUcluelet Aquarium:

Staying the course with both natural and modern, the aquarium in Ucluelet uses water from its own Harbor to fill its tanks, making it eco-friendly and the habitats all the more impressive.
Don’t worry about the sea creatures, all of them that are seen on display are later released back into the wild. Ucluelet Aquarium is located at Whiskey Dock.

bear iconBear Watching/Salmon

Thornton Creek Hatchery is best visited from late August to mid-November, when mature 2-4 year old Chinook and Coho salmon return to the hatchery. The hatchery raises chinook, coho and chum salmon. You can also see Black Bears along the shores close to the hatchery so make sure you proceed with caution here. Bear watching is popular with the tourists, so you probably won’t be alone.

Outdoor Activities


Scuba diving: 

Ucluelet hosts some of the best scuba diving in the world. The waters do not have the greatest visibility compared to tropical waters, but kelp beds, bottom fish and shipwrecks provides some great viewing opportunities. Barkley Sound has many small islets and islands that can be explored within waters under 100 ft.


Whale Watching: 

The pacific is often a haven for whale watching, and Ucluelet does not disappoint. Gray Whales and Humpback whales migrate through the waters here attracting attention from all the whale watching boats. Every March, Ucluelet co-hosts the Pacific Rim Whale Festival with Tofino, celebrating up to 20,000 Gray Whale migrating through. You can choose whale watching boats from either Ucluelet or nearby Tofino.


Boating day trips 

Broken Group Islands offer great opportunities for day trip exploration of the many islands and islet’s beautiful rock formations . Contact the Long Beach Visitor Centre for a good overview.


Offroad Touring:

 Get out the 4 x 4 vehicles for a thrilling backroad adventure. There are many sites to take in: mountain lakes, streams and waterfalls, and the vistas of Barkley Sound and Clayoquot Sounds. Walking is also an option, as nature trails through ancient forests are just as impressive.


Golf:

If you do get the urge to swing the woods and irons, the Long Beach Golf Course, located on the Pacific Rim Highway, is very challenging. But more than a challenge, it is also one of the most scenic golf courses in all BC.

Beaches

Long Beach:

Named for its 12 mile stretch of surf-swept sand, Long Beach offers outstanding beach hiking, and is open year-round. Chesterman Beach, Long Beach, Cox Beach, Florencia Bay and Wickaninnish Beach are the most popular beaches north of Ucluelet towards Tofino. 

Ucluelet has 3 beaches in particular that welcome picnickers. A trail leads from Marine Drive  to Big Beach where you will find picnic tables near the trailhead and then a short walk to the beach. Little Beach has a parking area off Peninsula Rd (the main drive) and is actually bigger than Big Beach. Terrace Beach is a pebble beach that can be accessed near Terrace Beach Resort.

Kwisitis Visitor Centre

The Kwisitis Visitor Centre: If you want to have a better understanding of the culture at Ucluelet/Tofino, Kwisitis is a must see. The centre’s purpose is to provide an understanding of the North Pacific Ocean.  A collection of artifacts used by Nuu-chah-nulth Indians illustrates the history of the North Pacific coast. Formerly known as the Wickaninnish Interpretive Centre, it is open during the day, from late spring to fall.

Kayaking

The open water of the ocean has been many things to many different peoples throughout the ages. In Ucluelet, the ocean becomes a playground for experienced kayakers looking to test themselves and their skills around both the Barkley Sound and the Broken Group Islands. If you are a beginner to the sport, there is something for you as well, as there are half-day trips where one can view the beauty of the Inner Harbor while at the same time having the full knowledge that you are still surrounded by nature’s forces.  

The Broken Group Islands area is becoming a popular summer playground for kayakers. While the voyage to the 100+ islands is remarkable feat in its own right, the arrival upon their shores is another treasure worth opening. These secluded islands happen to serve as homes for a variety of animal life that has barely seen the touch of a human. While paddling to the islands, kayakers are often treated to another remarkable treasure: the site of whales and other marine life surfacing.

Hiking


The Wild Pacific Trail:

Is one of the most beautiful trails in all of the West Coast. It starts by taking you through the rugged cliffs and shoreline overlooking the Barkley Sound to the east and eventually turning to the mighty Pacific Ocean to the south and west. If you bring your camera, make sure you have lots of film, as the trail offers many spectacular viewing opportunities.  The trailhead for the main part of the trail off Coast Guard drive at the Ucluelet Lighthouse.
The trails in the Pacific Rim National Park are for hikers only. The hiking trails were created to give hikers miles and miles of breathtaking views.


Willowbrae Trail

This is next on the list to visit. This trail can be accessed from a parking lot off Highway  about 4, km south of the Ucluelet/Tofino Junction. On the original route between Ucluelet and Tofino, the trail ends with a decline to the beach at Florencia Bay.

For more info on beaches and hiking in Ucluelet visit Tofino-Info.com. (Open it in new window.)

Geographic Treasures


Pacific Rim National Park:  

This holds the title for being the only National Park on Vancouver Island. What a National park it is though! This park has nearly 50,000 hectares of land (most of it is a beautiful natural rainforest) and ocean in three areas starting with Long Beach and heading south to the Broken Group Islands, and the West Coast Trail. Pacific Rim is famously known for its long sandy beaches.


The Broken Group Islands:

As mentioned above, these 100 rocky islands and islets can only be reached by boat or any other sea vessel. There is an abundance of animal life to go along with its magical wonder of tide pools present the nature enthusiast with more jaw dropping smiles then can ever be described. 


West Coast Trail:

77 km (48 miles) of hiking and camping between Bamfield (south of Ucluelet) and Port Renfrew covers a challenging terrain. Hikers are required to tackle steep slopes, climb ladders, cross several sections of water by boat, balance on tree logs, and follow an every changing and sometimes muddy trail. The trail takes from 5 to 7 days to complete, so come well prepared for the wilderness and ever changing weather. The trail is for experienced hikers.


Kennedy Lake

The largest body of fresh water on Vancouver Island (a beautiful one at that), offering campers a place to stay while allowing kayakers and windsurfers a more protected area to explore. Kennedy Lake is located on the north side of Highway 4 as you approach from Port Alberni.

Races

And if you are still standing, but still want another challenge? Well the Edge to Edge Marathon is hosted by Ucluelet and Tofino in June. Runners will go through the Pacific Rim National Park between Ucluelet and Tofino.

The Van Isle 360 Yacht Race is a yearly two week-long event, where sailors compete to circumnavigate around Vancouver Island. Ucluelet is designated as one of layover ports for the race, with scheduled activities for both racers and spectators. The start/finish line for this leg of the race can be seen at Amphitrite Point Lighthouse in Ucluelet.

History

Ucluelet is one of the oldest settlements on Vancouver Island. Its name is derived from the Nuu-chah-nulth phrase, Yu-clutl-ahts, meaning the people with a good landing place for canoes. It is believed that the Nuu-chah-nulth people have inhabited the land around the Barkley Sound for thousands of years. Because of Ucluelet’s isolated geography the Nuu-chah-nulth were able to create a unique and rich heritage, without any outside influences.

In 1787, Charles William Barkley, arrived in the sound that would one day bare his name, looking for sea otter pelts. The Village of Ucluelet was incorporated February 26, 1952, and later changed to the District of Ucluelet in 1997 as the population kept growing. The road from Port Alberni was finally opened to thoroughfare traffic in August 1959, and granting the rest of the Island and the mainland access to Ucluelet’s marvelous wonders.